In pictures: Freed West Bank prisoners return

Images of prisoner swap’s first phase which saw 477 Palestinians freed in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

The first phase of the prisoner exchange saw 477 Palestinian prisoners freed on Tuesday, October 18, in exchange for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Eager to greet the newly released Palestinian prisoners, West Bank Palestinians gathered at Ofer checkpoint, near Ramallah – the agreed-upon location of the prisoners’ release into the territory.

However, after waiting for hours, Israeli soldiers announced that the 110 prisoners due to be released into the West Bank were being taken straight to Palestinian Authority headquarters at Al Muqata in Ramallah.

West Bank Palestinians gather at a checkpoint near Ofer prison to welcome those freed in the deal [Lazar Simeonov/Al Jazeera]


Hamas supporters gathered in force – a rare sight in the Fatah-dominated West Bank [Lazar Simeonov/Al Jazeera]


Fatah members wave flags depicting Marwan Barghouthi – many from all political factions had hoped for his release, yet he remains imprisoned [Lazar Simeonov/Al Jazeera]


Members of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a leftist group, also celebrated [Lazar Simeonov/Al Jazeera]


Israeli troops and border police kept their distance from crowds until it was announced that Israeli officials would take the detainees by another route [Credit: Lazar Simeonov]


Palestinians at the Ofer checkpoint became angry at news of the detour, after waiting hours to greet their loved ones [Lazar Simeonov/Al Jazeera]


Following the announcement that those freed would not be arriving at Ofer , a section of the crowd began throwing stones at Israeli troops, who responded with tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets and firing a ‘skunkwater’ cannon [Lazar Simeonov/Al Jazeera]


The crowd quickly dispersed as Israeli soldiers responded to the rock-throwing youth [Lazar Simeonov/Al Jazeera]


Medical personnel were on hand to treat those affected by tear gas inhalation, which leads to constricted airways and breathing problems [Lazar Simeonov/Al Jazeera]


Water cannon was used to disperse the crowd, which moved to Al Muqata in Ramallah, where they were able to greet the freed prisoners [Lazar Simeonov/Al Jazeera]



Families of released prisoners reunited amid tears of joy [Lazar Simeonov/Al Jazeera]



Many families had not seen their loved ones for years, and had not dared to believe the latest round of talks would yield their release [Lazar Simeonov/Al Jazeera]


One of the released prisoners holds the poster made for him by his friends and family at the time of his arrest [Lazar Simeonov/Al Jazeera]


Families embrace at the reunion [Lazar Simeonov/Al Jazeera]


Palestinians celebrated the prisoners’ release throughout the city of Ramallah, and across the occupied territories [Lazar Simeonov/Al Jazeera]

Lazar Simeonov is a freelance photographer based in Ramallah, West Bank. You can visit his website here.

Source: Al Jazeera

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